February 13, 2009

Jared Harel

MY GRANDFATHER’S 90TH

Everyone not dead was there:
that couple from Poland, his friends
from the Y. And there was my

grandfather in his best grey suit,
an old golden watch, sipping ginger-ale
like a glass of champagne.

This is how I’ve come to remember him:
wedged between well-wishers,
waiters with hors-d’oeuvres, yet still

smiling, still ordering the fish
before stealing my fries. You see
even in death, I need him to be well.

For the music to soothe, his balloons
to burn blue. Through my blinds
the moonlight refuses to relent.

It presses in like the coldest of facts,
incessant as a child chasing pigeons
through the park. I am afraid

it knows there is nothing I can say
to make his entrée more succulent,
nothing I can do to improve a lousy speech.

But still we were there, his family
and friends, our glasses raised just a month
before his death. “Till a-hundred-

twenty!” hollered a lady with a cane.
“One-hundred-and-fifty!” yelled
the guest with the defibrillator.

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008

__________

Jared Harel: “I began writing ‘My Grandfather’s 90th’ shortly after his party. I got six lines in before getting stuck. Not knowing where to take the poem, I put it aside. A few weeks later, my grandfather suddenly passed away. At his funeral, I saw many of the same faces that had congregated just a month before for his birthday. Then this disturbing thought crept into my head: I knew how to finish the poem.” (website)